The best 4x4s for winter driving
Maybe this is the year to decide that the handful of weeks when Britain’s roads become bizarrely impassable due to ice may mean it’s time for a new car. Or perhaps the surefooted grip of all-wheel drive has appeal for wet fields towing and ever-more intense weather conditions. Either way, the state of the art 4×4 has come a long way from the first Audi quattro and rivals.
These days it’s not necessary to have a big SUV to get secure, safe and reliable all-wheel drive, but those who fancy the taller driving position anyway, the cars on the market are refined, easy to drive and even reasonably economical.
There’s never been a better time to get a 4×4. When it comes to driving in winter, it’s a great decision to have made. What’s changed, though, is that the car will be appreciated in summer too.
Which are the best cars for snow?
Chances are, most already know which are the worst cars for snow as they’ve had to try and pick their way around them at the bottom of a road. That old BMW 3 Series on worn tyres was never going to cut it. Perhaps they should have traded it in for something more capable?
Lighter cars, thinner tyres and models that slow down using gears are generally better at dealing with snow and will do better than the sportiest cars or automatics that don’t change down smoothly. Most cars made in the past decade have traction control too, but it can hinder as much as help, cutting power rather than spinning wheels. Above all, it’s the rubber on wheels that matters in bad weather.
Tyres make all the difference, but it’s really not convenient for most households to store and swap wheels on a weekly basis. As such a good 4×4 car with all-season tyres will appeal to most drivers, and these are the ones that we have put through their paces all-year round.
For those who aren’t ready to change their car yet, don’t worry. A good set of winter tyres will help get from October to May with a bit of extra security and confidence. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of knowing a car is pushing from both ends when reaching that slope, though, so here are the best 4×4 cars for winter.
Skoda Kodiaq (and Yeti)
King of the (snow covered) hill for Britain’s families has to be the Skoda Kodiaq. It offers up to seven seats, has a choice of economical yet refined engines and it doesn’t cost a fortune for the generous amount of kit provided. Lesser models are reasonably capable in poor weather and off-road anyway, particularly with the right tyres, but the one to get is the 4×4 with smooth DSG gearbox.
It’ll cost less than a well-equipped VW Golf, and there’ll be enough change for a set of winter tyres. In thorough testing it couldn’t get stuck even in the mightiest of drifts (not for lack of trying).
If the budget doesn’t stretch to the Kodiaq, the smaller – but just as capable – Skoda Yeti makes a good used buy from £2500 according to the latest prices on Parkers. The Yeti is proving popular and as yet, unmatched by anything Skoda makes currently, offering a remarkable amount of space inside for a small SUV.
Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport
For those who have got the budget for something a bit flash for their next car, everyone loves the Range Rover Evoque. It’s not a monster 4×4, taking up about the same space as a medium-sized estate car, but it’s got all the look and luxury of the legendary original Range Rover. It’ll cost a lot more than a Skoda to get one with 4×4 as the cheapest models are front-wheel drive. Adding to that, no one really wants to leave the showroom without choosing from the lavish selection of interior trims and colours to make the Evoque your own.
Thanks to a very sophisticated 4×4 system the Evoque is incredibly capable in winter and off-road, but it also handles like a hot-hatch with immense grip in summer months. Clever suspension on the higher-end models helps too. Choose “Active” in the specification.
Buying used? The Evoque’s a very sensible buy indeed as they lose a lot of value quickly from new, then stay desirable for years after, so you won’t lose much. On the other hand, the similar Discovery Sport is better value as a buyer foe those who want a three to five-year-old example. And it offers the option of seven seats as well.
Yes, one of Britain’s most popular family cars is also a great car for winter. Ensure to look at a 4×4 though, as the Qashqai’s competitive pricing means many are the economy-focused two-wheel drive model. It’s affordable nearly-new (an all-new Qashqai is due later in 2021) and there are loads to choose from on the secondhand market too. Buying a secondhand Qashqai does mean navigating the wide variety of previous owners, so make sure to get a warranty if the car is over five years old and still costing a significant amount of money.
For those who like the idea of the Qashqai, but fancy something newer or less “blingy”, the Dacia Duster has similar technology, a rugged attitude and again, a very capable 4×4 system in the higher-end models.
Audi A3, A4 and A5 quattro
Some may have noticed all the cars mentioned above are “typical 4×4″s: tall, chunky and focused on that off-road attitude. Sitting low and enjoying a planted, sporty driving position, Audi’s small hatchback, popular saloon & estate and elegant coupe and convertible all come with the option of quattro 4×4 – the system that made all-wheel drive cars popular – demonstrating the advantages in poor weather and in the dry alike. There are no real downsides to quattro: the cars are economical, available with diesel or petrol engines to match the performance wanted (the RS 4 and 5 are breathtakingly quick and capable) and they’re a known quantity for servicing and maintenance costs too.
With a quattro to suit the family, driveway and driving needs, the great thing about Audi is the consistency across all models, with genuinely useful technology such as the interactive dashboard that can display navigation right in front of the driver, adaptive cruise control and class-leading safety systems.
Better yet, for those who want all the benefits of Audi’s design but are still looking longingly at the SUVs above… just swap the A for a Q and you get the Q3, Q4 and Q5 with raised ground clearance.
The editorial unit